One of the things that you may like, or not, about the FX show The Americans is its deliberate nature on addressing what would normally being seismic dramatic events in its mythology. Consider that Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys, Burnt) and wife Elizabeth (Keri Russell, Waitress) have had to incorporate their increasingly curious daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) into the mix, something that could significantly change the dynamic of most every other show irrevocably for a show where all three characters are spying for the Russian government in the early and mid-1980s.
So what do Philip and Elizabeth do in Season 5 now that Paige has effectively forced their hand in Season Four? They continue to show her the psychological stress of the life, their life, that she seems to want to pursue. Elizabeth shows Paige how to calm herself down in moments of tension, something she probably found herself doing in more situations than she would have preferred to tell her daughter about. Elizabeth and Philip continue to work assignments from their handler Gabriel (Frank Langella, Captain Fantastic) and later (Margo Martindale, Justified), after Gabriel returns home to Russia, and the stress of missions reaches a separate emotional threshold in this dynamic as well.
Complicating things for the Jennings further is the relationship of their neighbor (and FBI agent) Stan (Noah Emmerich, Blood Ties). In his post-divorce life he meets Renee (Laurie Holden, The Walking Dead) who seems genuinely nice, but Philip, Elizabeth, you, me, your dog, EVERYONE, is curious about what her story is, and why it's now.
While the forte of The Americans continues to be their delicate nature of ratcheting up the suspense while bringing other storylines over to a white knuckled climax, they manage to introduce a deeper level of reflection to their stars that may not have been realized before. Season Five starts by further emphasizing the cold-blooded nature of the job, but as it goes on, the Jennings' realize that the work is becoming or has become emotionally exhausting and perhaps unsustainable. And seeing Rhys and especially Russell confront this and make their decisions on how to cope with it remains fascinating to watch.
With the pragmatism may have some cause for concern. Given that the show ended Season Five with two known things; that it was set in the summer of 1984 and this season was the show's penultimate (the show's Sixth and last season is halfway through as of this writing), it would seem like The Americans has some mobility that needs to happen to get to whatever the end game of the show will be. Nevertheless, Season Five is another excellent installment and ups the stakes on an already tense game.The Discs:
13 episodes in the fifth season, spread over four discs and all are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen looking about as good as they did when they first aired. Colors and flesh tones are replicated faithfully, the moments of news video from the era looks fine, and the Russian sequences look gray and washed out to help reflect the quiet desolation. All in all it looks fine without much in the way of image enhancement.The Sound:
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround for each episode, and they're generally devoid of many moments of large dynamic presence. Gunfire in the opening episode booms out over the channels, dialogue sounds consistent throughout, on the occasional chance a song is incorporated it sounds clear as a bell. Fox does good work on the few standard definition releases it puts out for shows and this is no exception.Extras:
All on the fourth disc, starting with five deleted scenes (6:23) on four episodes, a "First Look" (1:23) preview of sorts, and a gag reel (5:52) that shows pre-"Action" mugging, some flubs and the like.Final Thoughts:
Officially now more closer to its end than its beginning, The Americans continues to run along as an emotionally gripping show with compelling performances from a talented ensemble, and is among the best shows running for a multitude of reasons. The lack of extras (or a high-definition presentation) are good though continue to detract from what is a quality entertainment product, but shouldn't detract from you getting out and watching as much of this show as you can so you can be all anxious like the rest of us now that it's coming to an end.